Let’s Talk | Story no. 22

Lou Gerstner (Former IBM CEO) tells the story of an important meeting he had not long after becoming IBM’s CEO. It was the with the team building IBM’s, then the mainframe business. It was an important session because if that business continued to perform below the expectations, the face of the entire company would hang in the balance.

At that time company’s meetings were often run using a presentation system that was essentially a forerunner of PowerPoint, know in IBM vernacular at the time called as “Foils.” The person presenting knew his stuff but was essentially a forerunner a PowerPoint. The person presenting knew his stuff but was essentially repeating minute details already on the foil.

By the time the presenter got to the second slide, Gerstner had stood up, walked over to the projector, and – to the surprise of everyone in the room- turned it off! The screen went blank. The audience sat for a moment in a stunned silence, until Gerstner turned to IBM employees and said, “Let’s just talk about your business.” And they did.

News of the incident spread like the wildfire throughout the company. The point was clear – the chairman wanted a real discussion of the challenges that division faced, not a slide show. Honest discussion that followed with later helping to make a mission-critical decision for business. It wouldn’t have happened if Gerstner hadn’t challenged the status quo and clarity.


De-briefing the story 

It’s too easy to hide behind content-laden presentations. Tell your story as simply as possible. Use visuals to back it up but not as the main event. Make it a point to have a real dialogue with people.


This story can be used to share the importance

1- Information overload

2- Analysis Paralysis

3- Death by Powerpoint


Story Source

“The Power of Storytelling” by Jim Holtje

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6 thoughts on “Let’s Talk | Story no. 22

  1. So true. Some Trainers deliver fantastic content with minimal or no ppt at all. They connect with the audience. At the same time many other Trainers become slaves to ppt. What matters is the “heart to heart connect”.

    1. Very nicely said – Heart to Heart connection is the key.
      Thank you for reading this story and sharing your thoughts about it.

  2. I agree. I remember my Reliance Retail Days. We used to make our PowerPoint presentation to train the store team. I was all excited about it n went to the training venue. My project manager always ensured dry run used to happen n only if he was convinced he wud send us. So when I reach the venue, I see there is no plug points where the projector or laptop cud be connected. No tables and chair. No blac board to write. The training had to be conducted at the store where EPC is doing their installation. We were given a small area of about 500 sq feet to conduct the training. The team said let’s pack up its not going to be possible to conduct the training. I said no. We will conduct the training here. That’s when we challenged the status quo. What we did. Simple we turned the storage bins into boards and delivered the training. That cud happen only because we were sure of our content. The store manager was zapped. Thanks to our mentors who have exposed to all the challenging situation in life.

    1. Thank you so much for sharing your experience. I am sure that everyone will learn from it.
      You challenged the status quo and made a positive impact on everyone – That’s awesome!

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